Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, state Sen. Marty Block and Rep. Juan Vargas joined hundreds of others Sunday in San Diego’s communal Yom HaShoah observance remembering the Nazi Holocaust and its 6 million Jewish victims.
As San Diego Jewish World reported, the service focused on the Jews “who met the Nazi scourge with ‘Defiance, Rebellion, Resistance,’ including … the Jewish partisans who actively waged guerrilla warfare against the Germans.”Elan Bielski was the featured speaker in the Garfield Theatre of the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in La Jolla.
Bielski is an American Israeli whose grandfather Zus was one of the three Bielski brothers whose exploits as partisans in a forest of Belarus was celebrated in the movie “Defiance.”
“Along with his two brothers, Zus Bielski was credited with organizing a hidden forest community in which more than 1,200 Jews successfully evaded capture by the Nazis,” write site editor Don Harrison.
Andrew Viterbi, honorary chairman of the San Diego event as well as a scientist who was a co-founder of Qualcomm, said that Jews defied their Nazi captors day in and day out.
“Many rebelled by observing Jewish rituals and holidays as fully as possible until they were no longer able to do so,” Viterbi was quoted as saying. “In the ghettos, some resisted by establishing schools for children, and presenting lectures and programs for adults. Others created art, literature, music and poetry…. Some resisted by staying alive, others by dying with the shm’a on their lips.”
Bernardo Bicas led the audience in the singing of a Yiddish “Partisan Song” with a title translated as “Never Say.”
This year’s Yom HaShoah program paid tribute to other forms of defiance as described by Viterbi. Other parts of the program followed traditional patterns for community Holocaust commemorations, with second-generation members Barbara Ostroff, chair of the Yom HasShoah Committee, welcoming the crowd; and Jack Morgenstern introducing the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Color Guard, which presented the colors.
Sierra Lieb sang the “Star Spangled Banner” at the beginning of the program. At the end of the program “Hatikvah” was sung by a choir that included members of the J*Company performance company, Ohr Shalom Religious School, and Shevet Galim –Israeli Scouts of San Diego.
Steven Klappholz, a former director in San Diego of the Jewish Community Relations Council, told of the work of his current employer, the USC Shoah Foundation, founded by movie producer Steven Spielberg with the proceeds from the Holocaust movie Schindler’s List.
Klappholz said that the USC Shoah Foundation has collected 52,000 testimonies from survivors living in more than 30 countries.
Over 300 videotaped testimonies were collected in San Diego County alone, thanks in part to Erna Viterbi and Phyllis Epsten, local co-chairs of the Friends of the Shoah Foundation. Klappholz said over 200,000 students in San Diego County have been exposed to the videotaped testimonies, and 1,600 teachers in this area have undergone training in the use of these resources.
Rabbi Philip Graubart of Congregation Beth El led the crowd in prayers and responsive readings suited for the occasion as well as in the Kaddish.
Rabbi Rafi Andrusier of Chabad of East County chanted the traditional song of mourning, “El Moleh Rachamim,” and the ceremony was closed by Michael Sonduck, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of San Diego.
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